The last couple of years have seen a wave of shiny new models enter the supermini segment. From the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa to the Renault Clio and Toyota Yaris, many of the major players have launched all-new versions of their small hatchbacks.
Mazda isn’t among those but some time spent with the diminutive Mazda 2 recently has me thinking that there’s still truth in the old adage that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.
This generation of 2 has been around since 2014 so is relatively long in the tooth but was updated earlier this year to try to keep up with the newer models from elsewhere. As is usual, the cosmetic upgrades are minimal - a new grille, and subtle tweaks to the headlights and bumpers. But thanks to Mazda’s focus on simple elegant design it’s still a good looking car. It isn’t as bold as the rest of Mazda’s current line-up but the clean lines of the “Kodo” design philosophy mean it still looks fresh among today’s newer rivals.
Interior changes are very slightly more obvious. There are some nicer materials on parts of the dash and doors, and the seats have been redesigned to improve comfort and support. Invisible improvements include enhanced sound-deadening and new seals aimed at improving refinement. It won’t worry the Rolls-Royce Ghost in terms of noise isolation but it does a good job of given a more “big car” feel to the 2.
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Mazda2 GT Sport Nav
- Price: £18,340 (£18,880 as tested)
- Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
- Power: 89bhp
- Torque: 109lb ft
- Transmission: Six-speed manual
- Top speed: 114mph
- 0-62ph: 9.7 seconds
- Economy: 53.3mpg
- CO2 emissions: 120g/km
Minor changes or not, the interior, like every other Mazda’s, is higher quality and more neatly laid out than its direct rivals. Part-leather seats, a leather surround on the centre console and knurled metal effect controls are similar to those found on Mazda’s larger, more expensive vehicles and, like the exterior, there’s a welcome simplicity, although things like the deeply cowled, three-zone instruments are showing their age.
Beneath the surface further changes have been made to make sure the 2 can keep up out on the road. New suspension components and changes to the power steering and torque vectoring systems mean that the 2’s ride is superior to most other cars in the class but it manages to have a more lively, engaging feel than the most of them as well. As usual, it’s not quite on a part with the Fiesta but it’s a lot closer than most.
Sadly, the 2’s engine continues to hold it back and show the car’s age. Mazda is a small brand with less R&D scope than the likes of Ford or Renault, so there’s no small three-cylinder turbo here, it’s a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre with a lowly 89bhp. It’s hard work, with little low-down grunt and you have to wring its neck to get the kind of performance that is instantly available in any other modern supermini with a 99bhp three-pot. All 2s with manual transmission now feature a mild hybrid arrangement to improve economy and emissions performance, which is barely perceptible in operation but pushes official figures to 53.3mpg and 120g/km.
A simplified line-up sees entry level SE-L cars offer a decent starting spec, with LED headlights, cruise and climate control, plus parking sensors and 15-inch alloys as standard. On test, we had the range-topping GT Sport Nav which is lifted above lesser models by leather upholstery, heated seats and steering wheel, a head-up display and reversing camera, and gets the same seven-inch infotainment with smartphone mirroring that’s found in all but SE-L models.
At a shade under £19,000 it feels like a bit of a bargain compared with something like a Fiesta Vignale or Corsa Ultimate. Overall, the 2 looks and feels classier than its rivals and offers a better blend of comfort and engagement than them too. If only Mazda would admit defeat and follow them down the downsized, turbocharged route.